A few things that make Guangzhou, the capital city of Guangdong Province, stand out from other cities in China include the Music and Drama (Cantonese Opera is well known world-wide), the spirit and passion for Sport (The Guangzhou 2010 Asia Games and the 2010 Guangzhou Para Asia Games), the abundance of Shopping malls that throng the city, and the sheer delight of producing culinary delight (the renowned Cantonese cuisine). If anything it’s the latter that really distinguishes Guangzhou from all the other cities in China. Many people think that Cantonese cuisine derives from Hong Kong, however actually to many people’s surprise it comes from Guangzhou. Therefore, it goes without saying that Guangzhou is the gastronomical capital and the birthplace of Cantonese cuisine. Guangzhou has a long history and tradition of presenting world famous dishes such as Boat Porridge, Steamed Rice Balls, Shahe Rice Noodles and Yum-Cha. It would also be worth-while to try the Jade with Pineapple and Mint with Lotus.
While you are spending time in this city, then if you want to try authentic Cantonese cuisine, then pay a visit to the Beiyuan Cuisine Restaurant (北园酒家), located in the Xiaobei Lu area (in the Yuexiu District- not too far away from Yuexiu Park). This eatery is the perfect place to have a meal, especially if you have been to the Baiyun Park or the nearby Yuexiu Park. There is no better way to cool down your heels after a long tiring day than to relax and indulge in fabulous Cantonese cuisine at a marvelous restaurant in downtown Guangzhou, right?
Since its official opening in 1928, the Beiyuan Restaurant has firmly established itself as one of the three large Lingnan-Garden style restaurants in the city of Guangzhou. It seems hard to swallow that the atmosphere inside the restaurant and the surrounding buildings’ is rather relaxed compared to the sheer hustle and bustle of the traffic and other clamor outside. It would be a fair comment to make that despite the food showing its fabulous taste and colors, the customer service is disappointing and below par that one would expect from a five star quality restaurant. Now, its easy for us (i.e. foreigners!) to complain and say that it is in China- but hey, that should be no excuse whatsoever because there are a myriad of other restaurants around the country of a similar status that have a much better customer service. But the good thing is that the Beiyuan is one of those restaurants where you’ll find Dim Sum all day for your delight.
I commenced my culinary journey with a glass of fresh Watermelon Juice. Though, I could have easily opted for a glass of fine Chinese wine (Chuang Yu is one of the finest) had I not been planning an early start to the following day. The Beiyuan has a real Cantonese feel, both in the atmosphere of the place and with the luxurious décor that surrounds it (nothing comes close to one of the walls covered in nothing but gold plated leaves).
In Cantonese culture it is best to have plenty of dishes on the table, and plenty of noise in the restaurant to accompany that. So the saying goes that the louder the noise the better the expectation of the food in the restaurant. I went for three popular native Cantonese dishes. Starting off with the well-liked diced Roasted Chicken with salad, I slowly tucked away into each one with a spoonful. It is well advised to order a bowlful of freshly boiled white Rice. The Rice goes well with any dish in China because the bland taste of the rice adds a dry touch to food that may be otherwise oily or having a strong flavor.
The next dish was the dry rice noodle with Pork meat and green bean shoots (40RMB). The rice noodles were slightly salty and with a certain crispness that blended in neatly with the pork meat (minced) and the green bean shoots’. Diced Chicken with bean curd in a hot pot (Yi xiang Ji Li Do Fou Bou of around 45RMB) is highly recommended. The creamy bean curd goes very well with the scrumptious diced Chicken pieces. The final touch of sheer culinary delight came along with the fabulous Sautéed Squid and the rice (40RMB). I would not go as far as saying that these dishes are for the most adventurous person around because they did not contain any seriously exotic meat. But these dishes with excellent quality food are enough to fill you up- and the price is not bad either.
The dishes that I ordered are actually very common in Guangdong- and perhaps are the kind of dishes that may be consumed by those that are not really very adventurous with the other kinds of meat except the “normal” Chicken, Egg and Pork meats’. If you really want to try a seriously exotic dish than don’t stop your tongue from tucking into the Braised Sea Cucumber (880RMB per person), Stewed Chicken and Pork Skin Sauce (320RMB) and the Stewed Bloody Nest with Red Dates and Syrup (600RMB). The latter dish is very sweet, looks horribly red, but is good for your heart and brain. Nevertheless, in light of all of these the most expensive of the dishes at the Beiyuan is the 16 heads’ Japanese dried Abalone (980RMB per person).
The Beiyuan is no stranger to the likes of Fodor’s, Lonely Planet and other travel guides around the world. Though it’s the unique taste of the dishes and the true Cantonese feel of the place that makes every review unique. The food at the Beiyuan is so good that even after an hour of leaving the restaurant, I kept on paraphrasing the excellent quality of the three dishes (really).
Address: No. 202 Xiaobei Lu, Yuexiu District, Guangzhou.
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